It started out ominously. Rick Nash, the Rangers star forward who has been a real pain in the neck to opponents all season – was unable to play because of a pain in the neck of his own. They’re calling it day-to-day and let’s hope it is NOTHING like Henrik Lundqvist’s pain in the neck that has resulted in an extended absence.
So the Ranger took to the home ice last night without their TWO best players against a Calgary Flame team desperately trying to get into the playoffs.
Vigneault replaced Nash on the top line with 3rd line center rookie Kevin Hayes. And he backfilled the third line center position with Hartford rookie Oscar Lindberg.
If you like stoppages – this was the game for you. Icing. Offsides. This contest had them all and as a result - pretty much no offensive flow for either team. There were – get this – 65 faceoffs with the Rangers winning almost half of them. Of course – if you think the Rangers can’t win faceoffs – that would lead opponents to not care if they ice the puck – but hopefully this won’t be an ongoing thing we have to face.
And once again Vigneault looked like the best coach on hockey – his bold move putting Hayes at a left wing position he had never really played in college paid off with Hayes’ 5th goal in 8 games – and what turned out to be the game winner. Brassard stole the puck in the Flame’s zone and passed it to an open Hayes in the right circle. Hayes launched a nasty-quick shot that beat the otherwise stellar Karri Ramo (double letters in his first name) for the game’s only tally.
From there it was the Cam Talbot show as Hank’s replacement upped his post-Henrik record to an amazing 8-1-2 (that is 18 of a possible 22 points). Cam was aided by the Ranger defense and the 65 stoppages and had to make just 21 saves to win the game. It was Talbot’s 4th shutout of the season.
What Did We Learn? Good question. We learned the Hayes may be a rising star, that Cam can still shut guys out, that Lindberg was not bad as a third line center, that J. T. Miller was in his first NHL fight, and that Vigneault is a great hockey coach.
Uh, A Little Help? Assists? Just Brassard’s – with the steal and pass that led to our only goal.
Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game? Why yes. The Rangers killed off both Flames’ powerplay and, incredibly, were not shorthanded the entire game!
Where Do We Stand? Can you believe it? 37-16-6. (8-1-2 post Hank). Do we even have to look down anymore? We have 80 points – 15 up on 9th place Florida. 3 points up on Pittsburgh. 4 points up on Washington. Looking up – still 2 points back of the Islanders with 3 games at hand.
Oh My - What Will Happen Next? Thursday it's Arizona at MSG.
Non-Sequitur of the day: Keith Olberman suspended again. I like the guy – but sometimes he’s his own “worst person in the world”
Thanks – Dave Pucks out.